Victims of serious crimes may apply for a U visa, which grants temporary, legal status in the United States. You may apply for a U visa if you have been a serious crime victim and are assisting U.S. enforcement agencies with an investigation or prosecution. In order to qualify for a U visa, you will need to have a completed and valid U visa certification. U visas are similar to other visas. Before proceeding, it is important to learn the difference between U visas and T visas. To learn if you are eligible for a U visa, visit our page:
What is U Visa Certification?
To apply for a U visa, you must complete form l-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In addition, you must have a document, known as a “Certification of Helpfulness” or U Visa Certification, indicating that a law enforcement official has approved your request.
If you wish to apply for a U visa or need to know more about the Certification of Helpfulness, call our office or send a message online to tell us about your case. We can explain your options and will assist you through the entire process.
Which Agencies and Officials May Complete the Certification?
Certification for a U visa is generally completed by local, state, or federal police departments and prosecutors. However, any state or federal agency with the “responsibility for the investigation or prosecution of a qualifying crime or criminal activity” may complete the Certification of Helpfulness.
How Law Enforcement Determines if You Are “Helpful” to the Criminal Case
Although the law does not specifically define what is considered “helpfulness” to law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, USIS does provide guidelines to agencies that certify U visa applications. You may be considered “helpful” if you:
- Are a victim of and have information about a qualifying crime
- Have given such information to or are currently assisting law enforcement
- Are able to provide useful information in the future that may aid in the investigation and/or prosecution of involved criminals
- Have not refused a reasonable request or cooperation
Law enforcement can decide whether or not you are helpful to them and whether they should grant you the Certification of Helpfulness.
What Type of Information is Helpful?
Law enforcement agencies are interested in the many ways your information will aid the investigation and prosecution of those who victimized you. The more details you can provide, the better are your chances that an official will complete a Certification of Helpfulness. You can best indicate your interest in bringing the perpetrators to justice by being as forthcoming as possible with details and evidence about the crime. This could include but is not limited to providing:
- Identification of the criminals involved, such as names and addresses, or participation in a lineup demonstration
- Information that could help to apprehend the perpetrators, such as places they may be “hiding out,” names of family and friends who may have information about their locations
- Details about vehicles they may be using.
- Details that help the prosecution convince a jury that the accused is guilty of the crime, refute the criminal’s alibi
- Give support to the motive for committing the crime, or help to determine what penalty or sentencing should be requested
- Evidence that could help the prosecution to upgrade the seriousness of the crime or could lead to charging the involved criminals with other crimes
- Agreement to testify as a witness if the case goes to trial
Why You Should Work With an Immigration Lawyer
Many – but not all – agencies agree to provide a Certification of Helpfulness at the start of an investigation in order to obtain credible evidence as well as a potential witness. They do so because they know you will be unable to obtain a U visa without the certification Unfortunately, there are situations when law enforcement does not treat an individual fairly. It is important to work with an immigration lawyer to make sure you are not taken advantage of by law enforcement and that your rights are protected.
We Are Ready to Help You!
In some circumstances, a police officer or prosecutor could use your need for certification to make you an unwilling witness or participant in an investigation, such as wearing a wire to obtain information. For your own protection, you should have an experienced immigration attorney or advocate who is familiar with U visas at your side.
Do You Need Help In Getting Your Green Card Or Visa in Virgina, Maryland or Washington D.C.?
If you're trying to obtain a Green Card or Visa you need to speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Vienna, Virgnia office directly at 703.991.7978 or our Rockville, Maryland office at 301.637.5392 to schedule your free case consultation.